Abolish, not amend law on fake news, new govt told

Eric Paulsen says the controversial law on fake news is beyond salvaging. (Twitter pic)

PETALING JAYA: The Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration should abolish, not amend, the controversial anti-fake news law passed in the weeks leading to the historic May 9 election, says a civil rights group.

Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) said the Anti-Fake News Act passed by the previous government was beyond salvaging, and questioned Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad who suggested that offences in the act would be detailed and specified so that the public are clear on what constitutes fake news.

But LFL executive director Eric Paulsen reminded the new government of its election pledge to abolish the law, adding that laws such as the Malaysia Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and Section 505 of the Penal Code were sufficient in dealing with untrue reports that could create chaos.

Speaking to FMT, Paulsen said the MCMC Act itself was acceptable, but it was misused by the previous administration.

“As for Section 505, on statements on public mischief, it is actually well-defined. If need be, it can be amended to cover the realities of social media,” he said.

A person found guilty under Section 505, can be fined or jailed for two years or both.

Paulsen said in the age of the social media, it is harder for the authorities to claim something was public mischief.

This is unlike in the past, he said, when the only source of news was the government-controlled media.

He suggested that a law commission similar to the one in the UK, involving eminent personalities, former judges, lawyers, and academics, study laws and come up with recommendations.

The Anti-Fake News Act was passed in April and carries a jail term of six-years and a RM500,000 fine.